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Latest news from EUobserver. Making sense of the EU.



Last Build Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 12:00:02 +0200

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[Ticker] European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:33:45 +0200

Reporters without Borders on Wednesday in its annual report said media in Europe are facing a rise in "verbal violence from politicians." It highlights abusive comments by Czech Republic president Milos Zeman and former Slovak prime minister Robert Fico. "The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.



[Ticker] Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:12:47 +0200

Social democrat party, Siumut, remains Greenland's largest party with 27.2 percent support in parliamentary elections on Tuesday. Its leader, Kim Kielsen, is in position to continue as prime minister for four years despite losing 7.1 percentage support compared to 2014. The leading opposition party, IA, led by Sara Olsvig lost even more votes but remained the second largest with 25.6 percent, followed by the Democrats at 19.5 percent.



[Opinion] EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:10:13 +0200

As the EU prepares to host another summit in Brussels to address the Syria refugee crisis, it must acknowledge that the trade component of its deal with Jordan has failed in practice.


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[Ticker] Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:06:27 +0200

EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn has expressed optimism that a solution to the Macedonia name dispute can be found in the next two weeks during talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) staring in Vienna on Wednesday. "There must be at least one solution which would give way to the start of the EU accession talks for FYROM," Hahn told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.



[Ticker] Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:01:27 +0200

A high court in Italy on Tuesday dismissed an appeal from a German NGO Jugend Rettet (Youth Rescue) to release its rescue boat after it was impounded some eight months ago. The boat was detained following police suspicions of "facilitating illegal immigration". The group, in a statement, described the move as part of a wider effort to criminalise NGO sea rescue operations of people fleeing Libya.



[Ticker] German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:58:54 +0200

Jews in Germany have been advised by the Central Council of Jews in Germany not to wear traditional skullcaps or kippahs in big cities over fears of attacks. The council's president, Josef Schuster, told German radio that people need to take a public stand against anti-Semitism. "This is not only about anti-Semitism - it goes along with racism, it goes along with xenophobia," he said.



[Opinion] Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:57:13 +0200

This week the world celebrates World Malaria Day, a time to take stock of progress to date, much of which has been made possible through investments by the EU, a world leader in development aid.


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[Ticker] Erdogan plans June election rally in Europe

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:55:47 +0200

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced plans for a campaign rally in Europe ahead of June elections in an attempt to reach out to Europe's Turkish communities. The tour could escalate already strained relations and put Erdogan on a collision course with the several EU member states, including Germany, which has previously banned Turkish politicians from campaigning on their soil.



[Ticker] WhatsApp bans under-16 users in EU

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:54:04 +0200

Popular messaging service WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has raised the minimum age of users in the European Union from 13 to 16. The move comes ahead of new EU-wide data protection rules that launch on 25 May. The new age limit only applies to those living in the EU.



[Analysis] EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 07:57:34 +0200

The EU commission is to announce a charter on the ethics of artificial intelligence in a strategy paper, as the bloc looks to promote its values or risk being overshadowed by China and the US.


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Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 17:45:44 +0200

The president of the European Commission has decided that nine member states who are failing to fight air pollution will receive another month's respite.


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[Feature] Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:04:22 +0200

Spanish special forces seized a boat from African 'pirates' as diplomats watched on Monday, in a drill marking Spain's bid to grab a top EU military mission from the UK.


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[Opinion] How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 11:37:06 +0200

Russian domestic television - the only source of foreign news for most Russians - consistently shows Europe over-run by immigrants, beset by terrorist atrocities, and on strike. This has serious consequences.


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[Focus] MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:27:52 +0200

In an exchange with the new Chinese ambassador to the EU - his first appearance at an EU institution - the EU Parliament international trade committee called for action to meet commitments to open up China's market and reduce overcapacity.


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[Focus] Greenland votes with eye on independence

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:27:24 +0200

Six out of seven political parties running in Greenland's parliamentary elections on Tuesday are pro-independence, but they disagree on how fast the last ties to Copenhagen should be cut. Increasing dependence on China could be the consequence.


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EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:26:52 +0200

The anti-abortion campaign known as "One of US" lost its bid to force the European Commission to propose legislation that would cut funding to embryonic stem cells.


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[Ticker] Far-right attack migrants on Greek island

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:26:08 +0200

Far-right extremists on Monday attacked Afghan asylum seekers staging a protest on Lesbos island over poor reception conditions. Members of the far-right Patriotic Movement attacked the some 200 protestors, injuring around ten people. Police later dispersed the crowds.



[Ticker] Merkel defends accepting UN refugees

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:13:05 +0200

German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday defended moves by her government to accept 10,000 people designated as refugees by the United Nations refugee agency. Merkel said the UN program helps stem irregular migration and curb trafficking. "Our goal is to prevent illegal migration and to replace it with legal migration," she told reporters.



[Ticker] EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 09:12:23 +0200

Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice, on Monday told reporters she will go to Malta in the coming weeks to see how to improve the country's the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, which probes money-laundering issues. She will also look into the on-going investigation of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.



[Ticker] Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 07:22:16 +0200

Journalists from eight EU countries, commissioned by Greenpeace, found that 51 percent of farms emitting high levels of ammonia received a total of €104m in payments under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), some of them environmental subsidies. "The EU's Common Agricultural Policy is funding some of the most polluting livestock farms," Greenpeace said on Tuesday. "Taxpayers' money should not be used to reward the heaviest agricultural polluters," it added.



[Feature] Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:48:18 +0200

Immediately after Orban's landslide victory in April, a list of so-called 'Soros mercenaries' was published by pro-government media. Those on it - mostly human rights defenders, activists and Orban critics - are now anxious but vow to continue.


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European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:46:16 +0200

The European Commission finally proposed a directive to protect whistleblowers in response, at least partly, to scandals like Luxleaks, the Panama Papers and the ongoing Cambridge Analytica revelations.


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Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:41:08 +0200

Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala won a trailblazing court case two decades ago for the right of EU citizens to receive 'partial access' to documents. Now she says it is "outrageous" the European Investment Bank is refusing to release Volkswagen documents.


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[Ticker] Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:47:29 +0200

The European Commission "will not shy away from consequences" if the inquiry into the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia finds who ordered the killing, "even if that would have other implications pertaining to authorities in Malta or other economic structures," first vice president Frans Timmermans declared on Monday. Timmermans said that recent revelations by an international consortium of journalists will be "carefully ascertained" by the commission.



[Ticker] EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:23:31 +0200

The European Commission opened an investigation on Monday over a €900m loan from the Italian government to Alitalia last year. "The commission has a duty to make sure that loans given to companies by member states are in line with the EU rules on state aid," said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. The loan was given to avoid bankruptcy, after the airline was placed under extraordinary administration in May 2017.



[Ticker] Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:06:04 +0200

The only surviving suspect from the 2015 terror attacks in Paris was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court on Monday, for his part in a shoot-out with Brussels police in March 2016. Salah Abdeslam injured four Belgian police who were trying to arrest him in connection with the Paris attacks, which left 130 dead. Abdeslam will go on trial for the Paris attacks in 2020.



'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 09:29:22 +0200

Former and current members of the parliamentary assembly, including Spain's current state secretary for defence, broke codes of conduct, according to a damning new report.


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France tightens immigration law, sparking division

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 09:09:15 +0200

French lawmakers are cracking down on asylum seekers in a bid to send those rejected back home. Controversial measures they passed over the weekend will now be debated in the French senate in June.


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[Ticker] Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:58:48 +0200

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto hailed on Sunday the EU-Mexico trade agreement reached in principle on Saturday. At a trade fair in Hanover, they insisted on the need for "free international trade based on common rules." The agreement, when confirmed after more technical talks, will abolish duties on "practically all trade in goods" between the EU and Mexico.



[Ticker] Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:51:40 +0200

Andrea Nahles was elected leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Sunday - the first woman to reach this position. Nahles' result - 66.35 percent of the delegates' votes - highlighted the party's division after its electoral defeat last year and the debate over whether to participate in the 'Grand Coalition' with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. Nahles insisted on the need to reform the party while supporting SPD ministers.



[Ticker] Report: EU budget to refocus on South

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:49:24 +0200

EU funds could be redirected from eastern to southern member states, according to a draft European Commission proposal seen by the Financial Times. Under the post-2020 EU budget, cohesion funds would be distributed on the basis of GDP per head, but also according to criteria such as unemployment, education, migration and innovation. This would move funds away from countries like Poland and Czech Republic to Spain or Greece.



ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:44:21 +0200

Years of heavy-duty and expensive lobbying, including of a European commissioner for health, has not opened the way for mouth tobacco sales in the EU. The EU court in Luxembourg last week refused to lift the ban.


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[Agenda] Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:38:14 +0200

The European Commission will present proposals to protect whistleblowers, combat fake news and organise the digital single market. The international community will gather in Brussels to discuss how to help Syrians in the current war and after.


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[Investigation] MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 14:43:55 +0200

MEPs are using so-called 'friendship groups' to cater to foreign governments without oversight and little public scrutiny. Initially set up to promote cultural exchanges, some have become lobbying platforms to push state views from governments with poor human rights records.


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[Ticker] Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 09:28:56 +0200

The UK's actual 'divorce' bill from the EU could be billions of pounds higher than the current estimated figure of £35-£39bn (€39.8-€44.4bn), the UK's official government National Audit Office warned in a report on Friday. The spending watchdog said London could be responsible for an extra £3bn in EU budget contributions plus an additional £2.9bn to the European Development Fund.



Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 09:28:28 +0200

France and Germany have pledged to forge a joint position on euro reform by June, despite German reluctance on deeper monetary union.


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[Ticker] MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:27:53 +0200

The EU must better protect journalists and whistle-blowers, MEPs said in a resolution Thursday. The non-legislative decision said that Slovakia must ensure an independent and international investigation into the murder of Jan Kuciak, a journalist murdered last month. MEPs also urged the creation of a permanent EU scheme to support independent investigative journalism, a draft EU directive to protect whistle-blowers and better monitoring of media ownership concentration in the EU.



[Investigation] Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:06:58 +0200

Two groups are meant to provide expert advice on how to spend EU money on a new military research programme - but much is unclear about how and even if they operate.


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[Analysis] New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:19:14 +0200

The EU's latest funding rules for European political parties and their think tanks fails to address the underlying problems of abuse. Instead of tackling the loans and donations culture, it has simply made access to EU funds a lot easier.


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[Ticker] Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:49:02 +0200

The European Parliament on Thursday voted in favour of a reform of the system of car approvals, proposed after the emissions cheating scandal Dieselgate. The new rules give the European Commission the right to carry out tests if member states are unwilling to do so. It will also be able to hand out fines. The majority was large, with 547 in favour, 83 against, and sixteen abstentions.



[Ticker] European parliament adopts new organic farming rules

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:44:52 +0200

The European Parliament adopted a regulation on Thursday that lays down new rules for organic farming, with 466 votes against 124. Lead MEP Martin Hausling, a German organic farmer himself, said the rules will deliver "significant benefits for both consumers and farmers". The lobby group for organic farmers IFOAM however told EUobserver that the regulation's text, which was agreed behind closed doors after 19 months, was "not ideal".



[Ticker] EU granted protection to half million people in 2017

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:48:31 +0200

The EU granted protection to 538,000 people in 2017, a decrease of 25% compared to 2016, Eurostat said Thursday. The largest group, 33%, were Syrians, ahead of Afghans (19%) and Iraqis (12%). Some 50 percent were granted refugee status, 35% subsidiary protection, 14% authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. Germany accepted the most requests (325,400), ahead of France (40,600), Italy (35,100) and Austria (34,000).



[Ticker] Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:44:48 +0200

Facebook plans to restrict the coverage of a new EU data privacy law, the GDPR, to European users only by changing the legal terms at its international headquarters in Ireland, the Reuters news agency reports. The change will see the GDPR, which comes into effect on 25 May, cover 370 million Europeans, but not stretch to Facebook's 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America.



Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:25:24 +0200

Eurozone bank chief Mario Draghi will stay part of an opaque "lobbyist" group despite transparency complaints.


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[Opinion] Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:11:57 +0200

Fundamental freedoms are under attack across the EU but the case of Bulgaria presents unique challenges, and opportunities to learn, for left-wing forces throughout Europe.


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[Ticker] Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:05:30 +0200

Greek courts ruled on Wednesday that migrants stranded on Greek islands should be free to travel to the mainland while their asylum claims are assessed. Asylum-seekers have been prohibited from traveling beyond Greek islands, such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos and Rhodes, since March 2016, amid an EU-Turkey deal to control migration to Europe. More than 15,000 asylum-seekers are estimated to be living in camps on the islands.



[Ticker] Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:00:28 +0200

Interest in trading with former colonies is on the rise as the UK exits the European Union. "In an era when some big economies are turning back to protectionism, the Commonwealth can be an organisation to champion free trade," City of London's policy chairman Catherine McGuiness told Commonwealth leaders in London. The 53-nation Commonwealth includes Australia, Canada, India and South Africa and is home to 2.4 billion people.



[Ticker] Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:54:37 +0200

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron meet on Thursday in Berlin to seek agreement on how to reform the eurozone, ahead of an EU summit on 28-29 June. Macron is pushing for bold changes while Merkel is under pressure from within her own ranks - with leading CDU/CSU politicians arguing that the plans are not in Germany's interest. Merkel's coalition partner, the SPD, sympathises with Macron on the need for reforms.



Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 07:49:24 +0200

On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote on a political deal on organic farming, following 19 months of behind-closed-doors negotiations. EUobserver here details a five-month odyssey to get access to the secret documents that led to the deal.


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Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:59:32 +0200

A resolution condemning the appointment of the EU executive secretary general has left frustrated MEPs and a bruised EU executive.


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